Sunday, 18 November 2018

Czech Republic may help Slovakia protect its airspace

ČTK |
12 July 2018

Prague, July 11 (CTK) - The Czech Republic could help Slovakia protect its airspace if Bratislava temporarily lost this capability because of the purchase of new fighters, Jana Zechmeisterova, from the Defence Ministry's press section, told CTK on Wednesday.

This would be possible on the basis of the Czech-Slovak treaty of cooperation on mutual protection of airspace, which both countries signed last February, she added.

The Slovak government approved on Wednesday the purchase of 14 U.S. F-16 fighters worth almost 1.6 billion euros to replace the old Russian-made MiG-29s.

Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini said on Wednesday that Slovakia would analyse whether it would be repairing the MIGs or ask one of the neighbouring countries for airspace protection until the supply of the U.S. fighters.

The Czech Defence Ministry says the Slovak decision to buy the F-16s has no "direct connection with the implementation" of the bilateral airspace guarding pact and that this treaty does not restrict the right to choose a particular type of fighters.

"However, the existence of this treaty might make it easier for Slovakia to secure the protection of its airspace if the transfer to a new type of fighters caused a temporary loss of the ability to protect the airspace of Slovakia by its own fighter planes," Zechmeisterova said.

If a NATO member state is for some time not able to protect its airspace, the neighbouring countries automatically provide this within the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS).

Within this system, the Czech Republic would be in charge of air policing of Western Slovakia and Hungary of Eastern Slovakia.

However, this system is valid for military threats only and not for the case of kidnapping a civilian plane by terrorists who would like to use it as a weapon against a nuclear plant, for instance, Zechmeisterova said.

Czech fighters could interfere in this case and shoot down such a plane on the basis of the Czech-Slovak airspace protection treaty.

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